Next week we will bring you writing from Rhyd Wildermuth, Dr. Bones on “The Magic of Crime,” more of the “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” from Sable Aradia, and an essay on Brexit and racism by Yvonne Aburrow.
Holocaust survivor, writer, and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who was known for his lifelong stands against bigotry, denouncing genocide and repression in many countries, has died. In his Nobel acceptance speech, he said:
. . . I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget, because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.
. . . We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.
May his example be followed a thousand thousand times and more.
The Susitna River is the fourth longest dam-free river in the United States, and looks to remain that way after the proposed, and protested, Susitna dam project was cancelled by Alaska’s governor last week, due to budgetary concerns and a great deal of opposition by people concerned about the proposed dam’s impacts to the river, several salmon species, and other wildlife, as well human uses of the river (like tourism and fishing).
And, twelve years after it was first proposed (and objected to) Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would have carried tar sands oil from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia, had its approval overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal, which found that the government “failed to properly consult the First Nations affected by the pipeline.” Enbridge says it is still committed to the pipeline, but “At every turn you’re going, you are seeing nails in the coffin of the Enbridge project,” said Peter Lantin, president of the council of the Haida Nation, one of the parties that appealed. “I don’t think there’s enough room for another nail in the coffin.”
This week begins with a new piece from Rhyd Wildermuth, the first part of a series on the end of Liberal Democracy, beginning with an overview of the State’s relationship to Capital. Next will be an article on the situation in Oaxaca from Sean Donahue, who was there during the 2006 uprisings and has a deep connection with that place. Then, Ginger Drage makes her Gods & Radicals debut with “Paganism is Personal.” On Thursday we will have a story from Lorna Smithers called “The Day I Raised the Dead.” The week ends with “Goetia,” a poem from C.S. Thompson and a piece on Petrochemicals And The Gods by Gersande La Fleche. Another strong week is in store!
It was a busy week all over the world. While Brexit has dominated the news (more on that below), our thoughts and solidarity are with the people — particularly the teachers — of Oaxaca, enduring violent repression from the Mexican state. Among the articles that caught our eye this week were:
Forging the body of the Witch
“We should acknowledge, and celebrate, the power that is found in youth, and acts of youthful witchcraft – whether chanced alone, or with others – that attempt to provide meaning in a profoundly alienating world. I see a lot of chiding every time there is a new pulse of energy in witchcraft, this is simply the old trying to protect their positions. Witchcraft is also about getting things wrong, whether that is mistaking traditional craft for an instagram photoshoot or making fundamental mistakes about historical facts or ritual procedures. I support actions; which is exactly how the supposed elders themselves began based on an absolute mess of misunderstandings. We need to make mistakes, and this can be difficult to do in a surveillance culture that remembers and records our every misdemeanour. We need to stop being down on youth and in doing so, neuter its potential for growth.”
Mexican police brutally attack Oaxaca’s striking teachers
“On Sunday morning, the federal and state police attack on the people and teachers of Oaxaca began in earnest. Nochixtlán defended its blockade against a four-hour police assault, resulting in the previously mentioned nine deaths. Police took over the local hospital and forbid entry to anyone not wearing a uniform. The wounded demonstrators were treated in churches and schools, likely resulting in more deaths due to lack of necessary treatment.The next police attack on Sunday occurred at the blockade in Hacienda Blanca, 11 kilometers north of the city of Oaxaca. There police fired tear gas from helicopters, including into the school being used as a makeshift medical center, and there were reports of live ammunition being fired.”
Brexit: G&R Writers Sound Off
“The historical defeat of the English working class is Great Britain’s main export product.”
Brexit is a question of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union – should we stay or should we go? But the campaign has has become a fight between competing visions of Britain’s place in the world. The Remain camp represents outward-looking, progressive, cosmopolitan values, but also the establishment. University graduates, and the majority of Under-35s are in favour of EU membership – as are most of Britain’s political and business elites. The Leave campaign represents a populist insurgency by an older or poorer Britain – driven by nationalism, imperialist nostalgia and concerns over immigration. For the working class supporters of Brexit, this is an opportunity to voice their anger, after decades of being failed by successive neoliberal governments. But the Leave campaign is led by right-wing patricians, who see Brexit as an opportunity to remove Britain from the progressive influence of Brussels. The right-wing press and politicians like Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party are whipping up xenophobia, masking the true culprits behind the suffering of the working poor. Farage’s discourse has become so toxic, that Jo Cox MP — a left-wing politician who spoke out in defence of migrants — was murdered by a far-right white terrorist last week.
As we now are aware, UK voters passed Brexit by about 52% for to 48% against. Alley Valkyrie, who was in Europe as the Brexit debate reached its climax, had the following to say. Her thoughts on Brexit from an American point of view are a good place to wrap up this week’s update:
The EU was created mainly to prevent further war in Europe. I’m pretty sure you all are familiar with the world wars of the 20th century, but the horrors of war in Europe go back for over a thousand years. Wikipedia can explain the Thirty Years’ War and the Hundred Years’ War much better than I can, so I’ll point you there as I really don’t want to type out summaries of those wars on my phone. But I will stress that those are only the biggest two, and that there have been countless other wars that have devastated the European continent.
The seventy years between the end of WWII and now have arguably been the most peaceful time in Europe for hundreds of years, and the EU is the main reason why.
Is the EU perfect? No, far from it. As I’ve elaborated on in the past few weeks, there are many aspects of the EU that are pretty horrible, mainly it’s neoliberal economic policies and the racism inherent in its austerity programs. The power differentials within EU countries causes much suffering for those countries with less power, which is why Spain has been grumbling and Greece have made efforts to exit over the past few years. Those efforts were unsuccessful, but were driven by legitimate grievances against Brussels and the Troika over the treatment they have received.
The U.K. on the other hand, or more specifically England and Wales (as Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain) did not have the legitimate grievances that countries like Greece and Spain do. This was not about economics, this was about racism and xenophobia. This was a vote based on fear-mongering, inaccurate rumors, and outright lies. This is indicative of the rise of fascism and the far right in Europe, a trend that is being mirrored in the United States. Trump is actually in the UK right now, cheering this decision. And fascists across Europe are also toasting this development.
Meanwhile, the refugee crisis is only worsening, with the UNHCR estimating that 24 people per minute are fleeing from their homes due to war and/or persecution, and the UK’s exit will only further empower those in other EU member nations who wish to close their borders to refugees.
History tells us not only of our past, but our future. As the saying goes, if we ignore history it is doomed to repeat itself. WWII was also fueled by racism and xenophobia, most notably but not at all limited to antisemitism. But while hate was the fuel that drove WWII, the war itself was started over food. Hitler invaded Poland for a very specific reason – to secure the food supply for the German people, as there was not (and still is not) nearly enough land in Germany to feed its population.
I’ve been gushing about the food in France all month, in terms of both the quality and the price, which was also the case in Germany. The reason such a food supply exists is due to a combination of EU subsidies and a lack of tariffs across borders as a result of EU policies. Which means that if the EU crumbles, a food crisis will result. And this is where history is crucial, as a combination of widespread xenophobia, the rise of the far right, and a food crisis were the primary conditions that prompted WWII.
And this does not just affect food, nor does it just affect the EU. This also puts the US in great danger as well as the rest of the world, especially given the rise of far-right nationalism in the US. A fascist presidency in the face of a weakened EU spells danger for the entire world.
Right now the UK has no PM as Cameron has just resigned, basically no functional government at the moment, and everyone who isn’t affluent and white is suddenly in danger. This will only further fan the flames of anti-immigrant sentiment in England, as well as severely affect the lives of poor, disabled, and other marginalized folks who rely on the financial and/or policy-based benefits and protections of the EU in order to survive.
From here, Scotland will undoubtedly once again hold a referendum for independence with the goal of joining the EU, and will likely succeed this time around. Meanwhile, Spain and/or Greece very well may be empowered to try to exit once again, and given a weakened EU have a much greater chance of succeeding. And while that may be advantageous to those countries themselves, it will still further weaken the EU as well as further exacerbate tensions within other EU member nations. I should add that a significant portion of Europe’s fresh produce comes from Spain and Greece, and that food is heavily relied upon by EU countries that cannot produce enough food on their own.
This entire situation is absolutely terrifying. And while there’s not much that us Americans can do to stop it, there are three crucial things we absolutely must do. The first is to educate yourselves on the politics of Europe and the EU. The second is to build communities of resistance and an actual Left in this country. And the third is to stop the rise of fascism in the US — or indeed wherever we encounter it.
I love you all, but we really really need to wake up now. It’s literally now or never. This is Tower Time. The storm is now here.
Well, here we are: at the end of a terribly rough week, nearly halfway through a year that has already seemed unusually bad. Part of what has helped me cope with it all has been the good company I’ve been in in my pagan circles, which includes the writing I find here.
On the schedule for the next week are posts from G&R regulars Rhyd Wildermuth, Sable Aradia, James Lindenschmidt, Linda Boeckhout, and Sophia Burns. Their topics will cover such things as finding gods “in the dumpster,” spiritual activism, capitalism, the commons, and the Orlando shooting.
Additionally, on Tuesday the 21st — in honor of the Solstice by all its names — we have Wayne Martin Mellinger with his first piece for Gods & Radicals: Nature Religions and Revolutionary Social Change: Advancing a Practical Theology for Spiritual Activism. This is a longer piece for us, but it’s worth the investment since it gives a nice topography of the spiritual-activism space and will be of value to our communities.
We have put together a ritual to commemorate the dead of Orlando. We suggest that it be performed after the solstice but before the end of June. It can be performed alone or with your group. We have tried to make it adaptable to any Pagan or polytheist practice. Also available in Italian.
I didn’t understand that “bisexual” was an option when I was a teenager in a rural high school in the 90s. I only knew from how some of my classmates slandered others as “gay” or “lesbian” – and it was always, always meant as an insult – that there were dangerous ways to be. Very few of my friends were openly supportive of the idea of being queer, even if they also disliked some of the homophobic laws being proposed in my state. So I didn’t acknowledge my sexuality to myself until I was in my 20s, and felt for a long time I didn’t really belong in the queer community.
My social circles since my mid-20s have been matter-of-factly queer-friendly and included a lot of out folk. My pagan social circles, which are my social circles these days, seem to be majority LGBTQIA/MOGAI/QUILTBAG/queer/etc., and that has been fantastic. I can talk about my ex-girlfriend and talking to gods in the same conversation and no one bats an eye!
The last week has been so, so terrible; I’m simply heartbroken over the homophobic murders and attempted murders at Pulse. Learning more about who was actually there that night has just made it worse: It was Latinx Night; the headlining performers were trans; people of color are already victims of homophobic and transphobic violence more than white people. A lot of people were from other countries, and some are/were undocumented, and this makes it even harder for them and/or their families . . .
I’ve seen some very good thoughtful writing and some very powerful emotional writing about all of this, but I am kind of at a loss to add to that now.
Take care of yourselves, okay? Take care of each other. Keep on loving.
I am happy to say, dear readers, that we have another great week in store for you. Early in the week we will have two pieces from writers you know and love: Bastard Children of a Slaughtering Empire by Rhyd Wildermuth and then “Evil is Necessary!” The Suit of Spades and Human Existence by Dr. Bones. Then at mid-week, we will bring you New Landscape Radicals by Kevan Manwaring, in his first piece for Gods & Radicals. Rounding out the week is more new work from familiar writers: Tolpuddle Martyrs by Yvonne Aburrow, a poem by Hunter Hall, and Gersande la Fleche’s third piece for Gods & Radicals, An Interview with Ida Toft About Plant Spirits.
Some of the articles that caught our eye this week include:
“I Refuse to Serve as an Empire Chaplain”: U.S. Army Minister Resigns over Drone Program
“We have in our nation an established religion. It’s not Christianity. Jeremy Gunn calls it American National Religion. It has—consists of the unholy trinity of governmental theism, military supremacy and an understanding of capitalism as freedom. And as a religious leader, I feel it’s my prerogative to differentiate myself from this state-sanctioned religion and speak from my authentic tradition in a way that resists these national policies. And that’s what I’ve done in offering my resignation and stating quite clearly that I will not serve as an empire chaplain. I will not lend religious legitimacy to this state-sanctioned violence.”
Meaningful work not created, only destroyed, by bosses, study finds
“Bosses play no role in fostering a sense of meaningfulness at work — but they do have the capacity to destroy it and should stay out of the way, new research shows. The study by researchers at the University of Sussex and the University of Greenwich shows that quality of leadership receives virtually no mention when people describe meaningful moments at work, but poor management is the top destroyer of meaningfulness.”
Forget Hunger Strikes. What Prisons Fear Most Is Labor Strikes “Incarcerating the highest rate of prisoners in the world comes at a cost, so states have increasingly used the prisoners’ own labor to lower prison costs. Prolonged work stoppages threaten to increase these costs and create a more expensive prison system—some states, like Alabama with its high budget deficit, simply can’t afford that.”
Detroit sides with anarchists over developer in land bid
“A self-described “anarchist housing collective” where members live a communal life sharing expenses as they occasionally host live music shows has successfully outbid a land developer trying to buy lots next door for new apartments. The anarchist group, known as Trumbullplex, owns a pair of Victorian-era houses and a performance space at 4210 Trumbull in the Woodbridge neighborhood, next to the lots. For decades, the group has used one of the city-owned parcels as a gathering spot with greenery, fruit trees, a fire pit and parking for a painted blue school bus. Many of the collective’s 11 residents consider themselves anarchists because they don’t believe in government and yearn for a stateless society. The group says it has tried for years to buy the lot, but the city said the land wasn’t available. The group has made the case on social media that the side lot really belongs to the community and serves as a gathering area for neighbors, particularly during the summer months.”
2016 TERFwars: Transphobia Is Patriarchy
This past week, an all-too-familiar struggle reared its head again in the pagan community: the struggle against transphobia.
Gods & Radicals is not a monolithic, fully like-minded group of people, although some would like to represent us as such. A collective is a place where people work together in all their individuality — not a gathering of drones. We vary in opinion on certain issues, and also in the way we voice our opinion. There are, however, common denominators and non-negotiables: transphobia or any manifestation of essentialist othering is something we will never accept. It is a question of human decency.
As a cisgender white male who was raised in midwestern suburbia, transphobia is something I had to overcome, and it has taken me a long time to get where I am now. Admittedly, as such I am a little uncomfortable writing about this topic. For many years I would say things like, “I will always support a person’s right to identify however they wish, but I just don’t personally get why someone would be transgender” and would think that the struggle against transphobia “isn’t my fight.” And while these statements were earnest at the time, now, a few years later, I can see why I still had more work to do to unpack my prejudices.
First, I can never assume that my understandings, wants, or desires should apply to everyone. This seems obvious in retrospect, but it has an insidious way of sneaking into our blind spots. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I came to understand that any person who actively undermines the strict categories & dualistic thinking imposed by Capitalism and Patriarchy should be seen as heroes and warriors in our struggle. Once I adopted this view, and given the astounding violence that transgender folk face as a matter of course in their lives, I knew I could only offer them welcome, love & support as a staunch ally in our combined struggles. And these struggles continue for all of us; every day we must work to overcome transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, white supremacy, classism, and all the other oppressive enchantments of patriarchy and capitalism within ourselves, in our communities, and in the world.
This week’s trouble began when word emerged that a new transphobic book was being published by Ruth Barrett, an instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary. The book contains writing by Cathy Brennan, a transphobic activist & lawyer who has shown a willingness to go to great lengths, including using her privileged access to the US legal system, to harass and silence her critics, people who have called her out on not only her transphobia itself but also her practice of doxxing some of the most vulnerable people in patriarchy.
An example of these hate crimes manifested when Alley Valkyrie posted an open letter on Facebook, protesting both the book itself and also Cherry Hill Seminary for not publicly distancing themselves from this violent behavior. Not only was Alley’s open letter removed from Facebook, but she was banned from Facebook for 24 hours! In a show of solidarity, and to ensure that the important issues Alley raises in her open letter are seen more widely, we have republished the letter below.
There was also some fallout & further analysis of this situation as the week progressed. Ruth Barrett resigned from Cherry Hill Seminary. Peter Dybing wrote a good article in support & solidarity, and then later found himself under attack when Cathy Brennan “contacted my work and sent them horrible misinformation about me in an attempt to get me fired for standing up for the transgender community. This personal attack is beyond what any human should be willing to do. She and Ruth have proven to be a danger to the entire community. Please share this widely, Pagans need to know the violence they are capable of.”
Yvonne Aburrow’s article We Are Rising was another show of support, reminding us that “Gender is not a binary, not even a spectrum, it is a vast glittering field of possibility, many gender, many hues, many different expressions of being and love.”
“Cisgender fellow Pagans,I’m writing for you. I don’t want to make yet another moral appeal to support us because it’s just and virtuous to do so (although it surely is); instead, I want us to consider, together, what anti-trans Paganism means for us all. If you’re a cis woman, I have as much a stake in ending patriarchy as you – andtransphobia only exists because it’s part of patriarchy. If you support full inclusion for trans women as women, you’re helping to reject one of patriarchy’s more violent ongoing projects! And if you’re a cis man, I have the same message. Transphobia is patriarchy, and patriarchy is capitalism, ishomophobia, is racism, andisevery other structure of exploitation that keeps the ruling classes on top. “An injury to one is an injury to all” is a statement not of moral solidarity, but of sociological fact. Propping up discrimination against someone else just strengthens the powers that oppress you.”
I want to first make it brutally clear that this is the last thing I want to have to put forth today, especially while away on pilgrimage. But as a pagan and a cis woman, I cannot and I will not remain silent on this matter, and I will not stand by in the face of violent targeting that is being enacted in my name.
Many of you know who Cathy Brennan is. If you don’t, please spend a moment or two on Google and educate yourselves. In short, she is a notoriously transphobic radical feminist who for years has targeted and doxxed those who speak out against her, especially trans women. This is not a matter of ‘free speech’. Cathy Brennan literally endangers the lives and personal safety of those who oppose her.
Cathy Brennan is friends with Ruth Barrett, long-time Dianic priestess and instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary. Last year, when Ruth made several public transphobic comments, many called on CHS to fire her. CHS refused to do so, citing academic freedom as their reason for standing by her.
In the past few days, many in the community have publicly spoken out about Ruth’s new anthology, ‘Female Erasure’, a blatantly transphobic anthology that includes the writings of Cathy Brennan.
And in response to that public outcry, Cathy has publicly targeted several members of the pagan community via her FB page. So far she has named and targeted David Salisbury, Peter Dybing, Devin Hunter, and Deirdre Hebert. Cathy has also publicly stated that she will “gather information” on men (and in her world, trans women are ‘men’) who speak out against her.
In case there is any doubt as to what that means, she is planning on doxxing these folks.
If not for Ruth Barrett and her friendship and collaboration with Cathy, Cathy would not be targeting members of our community, which makes Ruth complicit in this violence as well.
For anyone who needs proof of this, Cathy’s FB page will be linked in the comments below. Cathy has a large and notoriously rabid following, and her actions are literally putting members of our community in danger.
I also recognize that by posting this, I will also likely become a target. But it is fear that silences those who would otherwise speak up, and I refuse to bow to that fear in the face of such a threat to those I know and love.
This is no longer a matter of ‘academic freedom’ when it comes to Ruth Barrett’s affiliations with Cherry Hill Seminary. This is violence. This is the deliberate targeting of beloved and respected members of our community. And by standing behind Ruth, CHS is now also complicit in such violence.
I am calling on Cherry Hill Seminary to publicly disassociate with Ruth Barrett immediately. And I am calling on every person that I personally know who is affiliated with CHS to resign from their positions unless CHS publicly disassociates with Ruth. And if CHS chooses not to do that and instead hides behind ‘academic freedom’, I am calling for for the pagan community as a whole to publicly disassociate with and boycott CHS.
I will say flat out that having to take this step causes me much pain, as there are many brilliant members of our community, some who I know personally, who are either staff, faculty, or members of the BOD of Cherry Hill Seminary. I want to make it clear that this is not a personal attack on you. But I will not stand silently and hold my words as they pertain to an institution that supposedly represents, teaches, and ordains priests in my community if they choose to protect a staff member who is complicit in the targeting and doxxing of members of our community. I sincerely hope that those who I know personally will demonstrate their integrity and do the right thing in this matter.
I repeat: this is no longer an issue of ‘free speech’ or ‘academic freedom’. This is a matter of violence, of endangering those who dare to speak up. What Cathy is doing is absolutely equal to the actions of the Gamergate folks. Such actions destroy lives and put people in literal danger.
One more time: to protect Ruth is to be complicit in such violence. Period.
I also ask for protection from those in my community who are able and willing to provide it, as I know that this call-out will not go unanswered.
In the name of Love, Power, and Justice, Alley Valkyrie
(If you feel safe in doing so, feel free to share this widely. If you don’t feel safe in doing so, I completely understand.)
After one of the best weeks in recent memory on this site, with several really thought-provoking articles, we have another strong week in store. Early in the week will be “What Wants Us Gone” by Rhyd Wildermuth. We have two new writers making their debut on Gods & Radicals, “Magical Arts and Sacred Geographies” by Gersande La Flèche, and “For Low & Middle Class Unity” by Martin Christensen. Later in the week will be Kadmus’ “The Original Sacred,”“Free Against Hope” by Sophia Burns, and the long-overdue return of the Crafted Recordings Podcast with “Episode 7: The Deeper Magic of the Commons.” I’m excited about this episode, which will contain music by The Droimlins and interviews with Peter Linebaugh, George Caffentzis, Massimo de Angelis, and David Bollier, along with another contribution from Dr. Bones.
The print journal — A Beautiful Resistance #2 — is still in process, but sadly there have been some delays in production. Be patient — this amazing issue is still in the works and we’ll have more information as soon as it is available.
As many of you are probably aware, Rhyd Wildermuth and Alley Valkyrie are, more or less, the spiritual progenitors of Gods & Radicals, given that this project was inspired by their Pagan anti-Capitalist presentation at a conference a year or two ago. They are presently on a sabbatical & pilgrimage in Europe. Both are documenting their experiences on their sites (Paganarch and The Scallop and the Dusk), as well as their various social media presences. If you enjoy their writings and photographs, please consider supporting them if you have the means via Paypal (Rhyd here and Alley here) or Patreon (Rhyd here and Alley here).
G&R Board Member and writer Syren Nagakyrie launched a Patreon drive this week, and is very close to her first goal. It’s so important that we support one another, as far outside the mechanisms of capital as possible.
Quite a few articles caught my eye this week. Among them were:
Seeing Wetiko: On Capitalism, Mind Viruses, and Antidotes for a World in Transition
“Wetiko is an Algonquin word for a cannibalistic spirit that is driven by greed, excess, and selfish consumption (in Ojibwa it is windigo, wintiko in Powhatan). It deludes its host into believing that cannibalizing the life-force of others (others in the broad sense, including animals and other forms of Gaian life) is a logical and morally upright way to live. Wetiko short-circuits the individual’s ability to see itself as an enmeshed and interdependent part of a balanced environment and raises the self-serving ego to supremacy. It is this false separation of self from nature that makes this cannibalism, rather than simple murder.”
Let’s not abolish sex work. Let’s abolish all work
“I support the abolition of sex work – but only in so far as I support the abolition of work in general, where ‘work’ is understood as ‘the economic and moral obligation to sell your labour to survive’. I don’t believe that forcing people to spend most of their lives doing work that demeans, sickens and exhausts them for the privilege of having a dry place to sleep and food to lift to their lips is a ‘morally neutral act’.”
White Niceness as the Enemy of Black Liberation
“Niceness is about convenience. It’s about our comfort. It’s about control. It can never include disruptions. It is exactly what MLK disparages in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ as a ‘negative peace’, set up to keep the status quo.”
Recovery & Radicalism “The word addict has a ton of baggage. It bears the weight of the racist war on drugs coupled with the debate about whether addiction is appropriately categorized/pathologized as a medical condition or ‘disease’. We recognize that those, and other related concepts are connotations when we use the word. It’s frustrating to us to explain that we use it differently.”
Stolen People on Stolen Land: Decolonizing While Black
“Searching for the answer brings me face to face with a difficult reality—a reality that means it is understood and acknowledged that I am here as a result of theft of life and culture. This feeling is hollowing and a specific loss of self and personhood unique to that of a non-Indigenous slave descendant. The denial of ever having a true anchor even if able to completely dismantle the settler system.”
The Working Class in France and Elsewhere
For a politically-engaged American, the present situation in France is a lesson in contrast, if nothing else. Four years ago, President François Hollande was elected on a socialist platform quite reminiscent of one leftist (by US standards) campaign this year in the US, emphasizing containing wealth stratification and increasing France’s social safety net. Now, just a few years after his populist victory, this same President is trying to combat high unemployment rates by curbing workers’ rights and increasing the power of employers to reduce pay, fire employees (presumably to to then hire lower-waged replacements), and cut back on customary leave and vacation times.
The French did not passively accept this situation. They have taken to the streets by the hundreds of thousands, protesting and participating in a General Strike. You see, French workers pride themselves on having a society with laws that protect workers’ rights, including the 35 hour work week, strongly regulated paid leave, and an inability of an employer to fire a worker “at will,” requiring long and expensive legal processes, along with a specific reason to fire someone. They have strong labor unions, including the Confédération générale du travail(CGT) —General Confederation of Labour, or the first and largest confederation of labor unions in France, and as such are much more organized and effective than American workers.
These unions provide a way for workers to not only consolidate their power in opposition to capital, but also an infrastructure where workers can help take care of one another. One intriguing example emerged this week with The Babayagas’ House, a feminist alternative to the “old folks home.”
In addition to the protests, the General Strike happening in France have created disruptions in conveniences, including limited power availability, less available gasoline, blocked motorways & bridges, flaming barricades, train disruptions, and other inconveniences. French workers seem to take these everyday hassles in stride, knowing that they are a consequence of the struggle for the greater good.
Some are predicting that America is on the brink of profound social, economic, and political change. We will see. In the meantime, American workers should pay close attention to what French workers are fighting for.
We have a great lineup coming up next week, starting off with a guest post by Brian Johnson on “Revolutionary Spirits and Occult Strategies of Resistance.” We also have scheduled a review by Lorna Smithers and essays by Rhyd Wildermuth (on colonialism and decolonization), Dr. Bones (on the precariat), and Christopher Scott Thompson (on the history of anarchism).
Links and News
Last weekend wrapped up almost 2 dozen climate change protests held around the globe known as Break Free. The Wild Hunt has an article covering the involvement of two pagans in some of these events, Margaret Human and John Halstead. Halstead – one of Gods&Radicals’ writers – was one of about 40 people arrested during the protest in Whiting, Indiana, and also has a series of posts up at Patheos discussing his path to environmental activism.
A victory in the works since 1975: The Munduruku, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous groups, have achieved legal recognition of their traditional territory, which grants them the right to “free, prior, and informed consent before the government can use their land.” As a result, a mega-dam project that would have submerged their land has been halted.
Lastly, two articles on animism:
Let the System Complicate Itself: Animism “…if you start simple and let the system -ie the ‘physical and spirit ecosystem of place’ complicate itself, then you are on better footing. … All things being equal, in natural systems (which would include the spirit world in an animist model), increasing complexity is a sign of health. Initial complexity is a collapse risk.”
Here’s an interesting quote I found on Tumblr, from a book by Gastón R. Gordillo: Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction:
Hollywood insists in presenting the image of a capitalist world in ruins as ominous and terrifying. But as Rebecca Solnit argues in A Paradise Built in Hell, the scholarship on disasters conclusively shows that it is the powerful who usually panic amid the rubble created by catastrophes. She shows that the Hobbesian Hollywood nightmare of hysterical masses panicking in wild stampedes and creating a war of “all against all” scenario is an elite fantasy. Most people are certainly shocked and disoriented at first but soon afterward generate forms of solidarity and cooperation and see the possibility of collective transformation and rebirth. In fact, the very fact that sites of power have been destroyed makes people less fearful of the powerful.
History is full of examples of fields of rubble that awakened emancipatory sentiments, even if this effervescence was eventually contained. After the burning of Moscow in 1812 by the Napoleonic armies, for instance, Tolstoy wrote that the rubble of the city opened “unique possibilities of moral regeneration”. In the case of Argentina, Healey shows that the rise to power of Perón in 1946 was inseparable from his role in the plans to reconstruct the city of San Juan, which had been reduced to rubble by an earthquake two years earlier. Perón turned the rubble of San Juan into a collective invitation to build a new, better, more inclusive Argentina. Henry Cobb noted in 1947 a similar enthusiasm for change amid the rubble of Warsaw, which made him realize, “in a strange way,” that “because of the destruction you could remake the world.” And this is at the core of the elite fear of rubble in moments of unrest: that the rubble, indeed, could be an invitation to remake the world differently
And, writers, get your thinking caps on, because the call for papers for Issue #3 is just over the horizon. And in the meantime, you can always send us your writing for publication here on the site.
Coming This Week
This week, we have on the docket “The Revolution Is Never Easy” from Sable Aradia, as well as “The Violent & The Dead” from Rhyd Wildermuth on homelessness, global warming, and shit. Later in the week, look for “The Art Of BreastFeeding” by Linda Boeckhout, and a poem from Hunter Hall. And as always, surprises are bound to show up at the last minute.
The University of Michigan have released a fabulous history lesson: the Labadie Collection of public domain political posters “covering social protest movements such as Anarchism, Civil Liberties, Colonialism, Communism, Ecology, Labor, Pacifism, Sexual Freedom, Socialism, Women, and Youth/Student Protest. Some are from the first half of the 20th century, but the majority are from the 1960s and later. Many are undated.”
I have a feeling you will be seeing many of these posters here on Gods & Radicals in the future.
Since Fascism is ever on the rise throughout the world, the White Rose Society is reforming, with local chapters throughout North America and the World. The original White Rose Society “was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany.” Their principles are clearly stated and interesting to read. If you like & support these principles, then you may wish to get involved.
Have you ever been called for Jury Duty? Jury Nullification — “the power that jurors have to find a defendant not guilty even if they think that he committed the crime” — is a very important tactic we have at our disposal to fight unfair, discriminatory, and racist practices in the US legal system. Despite its power, it remains little-known or used. This interview with Paul Butler is a great introduction to the topic.
Was he a madman? A charlatan? Or one of the 20th century’s most insightful voices on consciousness? Whatever you think of Wilhelm Reich, the fact remains that his treatment by the US government is a fascinating case study. In 1956, he was arrested, his laboratory in Maine destroyed by police officers with axes, and 6 tons of his books & laboratory notes were burned. He died in prison less than two years later.
Election season has arrived here in the United States. For this radical, it stirs up a hornets nest of conflicting thoughts and feelings. The anarchist in me abhors the very concept of choosing my master, even if we take the American Dream literally and fetishize the Republic as a form of government. We can’t really do that, of course, because we know corruption is rampant, elections can be hacked, and the unification of state and market power that has created much of the suffering in the world will not yield its power without a struggle.
But at the same time, I have to acknowledge the fact that of the 3 mainstream candidates still running, each will affect this suffering differently. This more pragmatic & utilitarian approach demands that I act intelligently, toward manifesting the outcome I prefer, using whatever paths forward are available to me. So sure, I can rationalize voting, particularly when one candidate stands out in my mind as being less harmful than the others.
Yet, I harbor no illusions that even if the most progressive candidate wins the general election and becomes President, they will face quite a lot of resistance from capitalist power structures. Despite the many failures of the neoliberal model of capitalism that has been in force since the early 1970s, the capitalists will not want to revert to a Keynesian mode of capitalism that existed from the end of World War II until then, and is (more or less) represented by one current campaign and message.
In other words, none of the current candidates are radical candidates by any stretch in the context of American politics over the past few decades. As Noam Chomsky reminds us, progressive ideas & positions “would not have surprised President Eisenhower, who said, in fact, that anyone who does not accept New Deal programs doesn’t belong in the American political system. That’s now considered very radical.”
Furthermore, let us not forget what happened in Greece, where a leftist (by comparison to other candidates) came out of nowhere with wide popular support and won the election, only to capitulate soon after to the demands of capital.
No matter who wins the presidential election, work will need to continue well beyond election day. Merely winning an election does not provide a mechanism to dismantle the existing power structures, unless the popular movement has the ability to defeat the counter-revolutionary tactics of disinformation, military action (or the threat thereof), and economic terrorism with the capitalist infrastructures and austerity, all of which will be waged in full force against any effort — “legitimate” or not — threatening their hold on power.